Nate Bradford & Steven Ronquillo
We burn the midnight oil, scraping the bottom of the barrel, to bring you the cream that rises to the top.
TOP 3 SWAMPSPLOITATION FLICKS
Setting. It’s one of the six elements of story and, I would argue, at times, the most important element. Imagine Gone with the Wind set in 1950s New York City, or West Side Story set in the Civil War South. Tonight, we present our top three films wherein location is so important, it almost becomes a character unto itself. That location? The Swamp.
NUMBER 3: Swamp Girl (1971)
STEVEN: From the late ‘60s until about 1979, ‘The Redneck Circuit’ was very, very big. Consisting of Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, The Carolinas, and Florida (basically every state below the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Mississippi), ‘The Circuit’ was a goldmine for Exploitation filmmakers (just ask H.G. Lewis and David Friedman) and movies like this were eaten up like candy. This was actor Ferlin Husky’s third movie (after Hillbillies in a Haunted House and Hillbillies in Las Vegas) and his ‘non-acting’ style REALLY shines through in this one. This is a cool (but ultimately forgettable) slice of Swampsploitation. A fun time for fans of the cornpone school of filmmaking.
NATE: Even as a HUGE fan of the Exploitation genre, I sometimes find it difficult to sit through the true, bottom of the barrel, no budget swill. Fortunately, no such conflict arose in my heart as I watched Swamp Girl. Call me crazy, but I LOVED this flick. From the AMAZING theme song (and subsequent score), on through the scene with the drunken abortion doctor, all the way to the rattlesnake torture scene, this movie was a highly watchable hoot.
STEVEN: Swamp Girl is mostly harmless fun, but the last minute twist is a true jaw dropper. It’s no Gator Bait, but it still kicks ass. Lesson I learned from this movie? Do not, under any circumstances, tell someone you’re gonna come after them while they have you hanging over a pit of rattlesnakes. It’s just A BAD IDEA!
NUMBER 2: Swamp Thing (1982)
STEVEN: Sooo… this is what happens when a director is promised the world and then gets to the set to discover that, at the last moment, he’s been screwed out of half of his budget and his shooting schedule has been gutted. What was supposed to be a big budget production turns into a low budget camp classic. This movie features two of the most god-awful monster suits ever and the swamp they filmed in was such a toxic mess that it began dissolving said suits as soon as they hit the water. The fact that Wes Craven managed to make a decent movie out of this mess is a miracle in and of itself. Still fun, still campy. Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing is a classic.
NATE: After Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes, but before A Nightmare on Elm Street and WAY before the Scream films, Wes Craven was tapped to direct this big budget version of the DC Comics property, Swamp Thing. The movie does a good job of following the storyline set forth by the comics, but fails at almost every other turn. Rubbery costumes, wooden acting, and not-so-special effects, collide in a train wreck so horribly charming that you simply cannot look away. Adrienne Barbeau and Wes Craven favorite David Hess are definitely the standouts in this P.O.S. which, despite my demi-horrible review, is a film which I actually enjoy.
STEVEN: Like I said, the end result wasn’t Craven’s fault. The producer ran off with about half of the film’s budget at the last minute and Wes was left waist deep in the swamp, his ass in a sling.
NUMBER 1: Southern Comfort (1981)
STEVEN: What can I say? This is a Grade A, badass classic. A group of National Guardsmen on routine war games in the swamps of Louisiana get lost after fugging with some Cajuns. Bad mistake. Intense, scary, and just as good today as it was when it blew my mind as a little, child person, Southern Comfort gets my highest approval rating.
NATE: Like Steven, I first saw this flick when I was a ‘little, child person’ and it has stuck with me ever since. An AMAZING slice of Swampsploitation, Southern Comfort succeeds in every category at which Swamp Thing fails. The acting is great, the direction swift. The tension in this flick builds to a fever pitch that will make your eyeballs bleed. Walter Hill (who had previously directed the gang war cult favorite The Warriors) went on to direct several well received films (48 Hrs and Brewster’s Millions among them), but nothing else that he’s done has come close to the brilliance exhibited by this Deliverance inspired masterpiece.
STEVEN: Southern Comfort marked the first score that Ry Cooder wrote for Hill and he immediately became the Director’s composer of choice. This movie also features one of the first performances by the late, great, Brion James. He plays the captured Cajun who utters the memorable line: ‘You don come down to this heyah bayou and fug wit us on our own land.’ DAMN RIGHT! MGM HD has recently been showing Southern in a new HD print.
NEXT WEEK: THE TOP 3 INCOMPLETESPLOITATION FLICKS
Nate Bradford is a writer, musician, actor, filmmaker, and philosopher who divides his time between Bangor, Maine and Brooklyn, New York. He really, really, really wants a job working for The Onion A.V. Club’s ‘Inventory.’
Steven Ronquillo is a film geek who has wasted most of his years on this planet trying to see the weirdest and oddest movies he can. He has forgotten more about film than you ever knew.